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  • Writer's pictureDennis Guyvan, Life Coach

Feeling groggy? Reset your motivation with a dopamine detox. Tips from a Life Coach in Denver


Do you struggle with low energy levels? Feel groggy or lethargic?


Do you struggle with attention and focus?


Do you tend to experience mood swings, with periods of elevated motivation followed by crashes in mood and energy?


Do you find it difficult to relax or experience restlessness, even in situations where you should be at ease?


These are some common symptoms my life coaching clients experience when they talk about "dopamine withdrawals," "dopamine crash," or another way to say it is "dopamine hangover."


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1. What is a "Phone Hangover"?


In today's digital age, our smartphones have become an integral part of our daily lives. From staying connected with friends and family to navigating through the virtual world, our phones are constantly buzzing with notifications. While this connectivity brings numerous benefits, it also can create a "phone hangover," which is closely linked to the concept of dopamine overload.


Phone hangover is a term used to describe the feelings of fatigue, stress, and anxiety that can result from excessive use of our smartphones. It's that groggy sensation you might experience after spending extended periods scrolling through social media, playing games, or responding to a barrage of messages. Some of my life coaching mentioned experiencing a groggy feeling for days after they stopped engaging in stimulating activities.


The Dopamine Connection

To understand "phone hangover', we need to delve into the role of dopamine in our brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in our brain's reward system. When we engage in activities that bring pleasure or satisfaction, such as receiving likes on a social media post or winning a game, our brain releases dopamine, creating a sense of happiness and reward.


Smartphones, with their constant stream of notifications, are designed to trigger this dopamine release. Every ping, buzz, or visual cue prompts our brain to anticipate something rewarding. Over time, this can lead to a continuous cycle of seeking gratification through our phones.


The Cycle of Dopamine Overload

The issue arises when the dopamine system is overstimulated. The continuous influx of notifications and the allure of social media can create a loop where we feel compelled to check our phones repeatedly. This constant stimulation can lead to an imbalance in our brain's reward system, causing fatigue, anxiety, and stress – the classic symptoms of a phone hangover.


Symptoms of Phone Hangover

  1. Fatigue: Spending too much time on your phone can be mentally draining, leading to feelings of exhaustion even after a full night's sleep.

  2. Stress and Anxiety: The constant bombardment of information and the pressure to stay connected can contribute to heightened stress levels and anxiety.

  3. Poor Sleep Quality: Excessive screen time, especially before bedtime, can disrupt our sleep patterns, leading to a restless night.

  4. Decreased Productivity: Spending hours on your phone can hinder your ability to focus on tasks, impacting overall productivity.

2. Why do we get overstimulated by dopamine while using our phones?



The overstimulation of dopamine while using our phones is rooted in the way our brains are wired to respond to rewards and stimuli. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a central role in the brain's reward system. This system is evolutionarily designed to reinforce behaviors that are essential for survival, such as eating, socializing, and reproducing. Moreover, it impacts the level of our daily motivation, which can significantly impact the life coaching process since it gets more difficult to move forward in life when our motivation tank is low.



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Here's why we can get overstimulated by dopamine while using our phones:


1. Immediate Rewards:

  • Smartphones provide a constant stream of immediate rewards through notifications, likes, messages, and other forms of digital interaction.

  • The instant feedback triggers the release of dopamine, creating a sense of pleasure and reinforcing the behavior of checking our phones.

2. Variable Rewards:

  • The unpredictability of rewards on social media platforms and messaging apps mimics a principle known as "variable rewards." This is a powerful psychological concept that keeps us engaged because we never know when the next like or message will arrive.

  • Variable rewards are particularly effective in stimulating dopamine release, making phone use habit-forming.

3. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO):

  • The fear of missing out on important information or social interactions compels us to check our phones frequently. The anticipation of potentially rewarding experiences triggers dopamine release.

  • Social media platforms often showcase highlights of others' lives, creating a sense of comparison and competition that fuels the desire for validation and recognition.

4. Social Validation:

  • Likes, comments, and shares on social media platforms serve as forms of social validation. Each positive interaction activates the brain's reward system, reinforcing the behavior of posting and checking for updates.

  • The pursuit of social approval and recognition is deeply ingrained in human psychology, and smartphones provide a convenient avenue for seeking these rewards.

5. Novelty and Novel Experiences:

  • The brain is wired to respond to novelty. Constantly refreshing feeds and exploring new content on our phones provides a steady supply of novel stimuli, keeping the brain engaged.

  • Novel experiences trigger the release of dopamine, creating a sense of excitement and satisfaction.

6. Convenience and Accessibility:

  • Smartphones offer easy access to a wide range of activities and information, making them a go-to source for entertainment, communication, and exploration.

  • The convenience and accessibility contribute to the habitual use of smartphones, leading to repeated dopamine stimulation.


While these mechanisms serve evolutionary purposes, the digital age has introduced an unprecedented level of stimuli that can lead to overstimulation and, consequently, phone hangover. Recognizing the role of dopamine in smartphone use allows individuals to make conscious decisions about their digital habits and establish a healthier relationship with technology.


3. What are some of the ways to cope with phone hangover and reset the dopamine system? To answer this question, I would like to mention Anna Lembke's book "Dopamine Nation," which explores the impact of modern behaviors on our dopamine system and offers strategies to reset it. Here are some adapted strategies from the book that can help cope with phone hangover and reset the dopamine system that I recommend to my life coaching clients in Denver and Chicago:



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1. Digital Detox:

  • Take intentional breaks from your phone. Designate specific times of the day or specific days of the week as "digital detox" periods.

  • Use this time to engage in non-digital activities, such as reading a book, going for a walk, or spending quality time with friends and family.

2. Mindful Consumption:

  • Practice mindful phone use by being aware of your digital habits. Ask yourself whether you're checking your phone out of habit or genuine necessity.

  • Before reaching for your phone, take a moment to consider whether the activity will contribute positively to your well-being.

3. Set Boundaries:

  • Establish clear boundaries for phone use, both in terms of time and specific activities. Create designated periods for work-related tasks, social media, and entertainment.

  • Stick to these boundaries to prevent prolonged periods of uninterrupted phone use.

4. Notification Management:

  • Turn off non-essential notifications to reduce the constant interruptions that contribute to dopamine overload.

  • Check your messages and updates intentionally during designated times, rather than reacting to every notification as it arrives.

5. Reconnect with the Real World:

  • Prioritize face-to-face interactions and real-world experiences. Engage in activities that bring genuine joy and fulfillment without the need for digital validation.

  • Spend time in nature, participate in hobbies, or enjoy physical activities that promote well-being.

6. Establish Tech-Free Zones:

  • Designate specific areas or times where the use of technology is not allowed. For example, create tech-free zones in certain rooms of your home or during meals.

  • This helps create a physical and mental space for relaxation and reduces the constant presence of digital stimuli.

7. Practice Gratitude:

  • Cultivate a sense of gratitude for the real-world experiences and relationships in your life. Regularly reflect on positive aspects of your day that don't involve digital interactions.

  • Shifting the focus to gratitude can help recalibrate the brain's reward system towards more meaningful experiences.

8. Physical Activity:

  • Engage in regular physical activity, as exercise has been shown to positively impact dopamine levels.

  • Incorporate activities that you enjoy, whether it's walking, jogging, cycling, or participating in a fitness class.


By incorporating these strategies into your daily life, you can gradually reset your dopamine system, reduce the impact of phone hangovers, and foster a healthier relationship with technology. It's essential to be intentional and mindful about your digital habits to achieve a more balanced and fulfilling lifestyle, which commonly what my life coaching clients in Denver and Chicago are looking for.


4. How long does it take to reset the dopamine system?


A "dopamine detox" is often used to describe a period of intentional abstinence or reduction in activities that stimulate the release of dopamine.


The duration it takes to notice changes in your dopamine system can vary among individuals, and it depends on factors such as the intensity of previous stimuli, the duration of the detox, and individual neurobiology. However, some general observations can be made:



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1. Short-Term Changes:

  • Even a brief break from highly stimulating activities, such as social media, video games, or excessive screen time, can lead to short-term changes in dopamine-related responses.

  • Within a day or two, some people may report feeling more focused, less anxious, and experiencing a greater sense of calm.

2. Long-Term Adaptations:

  • For more profound and lasting changes, a more extended period of reduced stimulation is often recommended. This might involve several days or weeks of consciously avoiding certain dopamine-triggering activities.

  • Over time, the brain can undergo adaptations, such as downregulation of dopamine receptors, which may contribute to a reduced sensitivity to the stimuli that were previously overstimulating.

3. Establishing New Habits:

  • A dopamine detox can also be an opportunity to establish new, healthier habits. Engaging in activities that are intrinsically rewarding, such as exercise, creative pursuits, or spending time with loved ones, can contribute to a more balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.

4. Individual Variability:

  • It's important to recognize that individual responses vary. Some people may notice significant changes relatively quickly, while others may require a more gradual approach.

  • The key is to be patient and attentive to your own experience, adjusting the duration and intensity of the detox based on what feels sustainable and beneficial for you.

5. Post-Detox Lifestyle Choices:

  • To maintain the benefits of a dopamine detox, it's crucial to make thoughtful choices about reintroducing stimulating activities into your life.

  • Consider adopting a mindful and moderated approach to digital use, incorporating lessons learned during the detox to create a more balanced relationship with activities that influence dopamine release.


5. What are some possible outcomes of dopamine detox? Engaging in a dopamine detox, or a period of intentional reduction in activities that stimulate the release of dopamine, can have various outcomes that contribute to a healthier relationship with stimuli and improved overall well-being. Here are some possible outcomes that some of my life coaching clients experienced:


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1. Increased Focus and Productivity:

  • By taking a break from highly stimulating activities, individuals often report improved concentration and focus. The reduction in constant distractions allows the brain to recalibrate, leading to enhanced productivity.

2. Reduced Anxiety and Stress:

  • Disconnecting from sources of constant stimulation, such as social media or information overload, can contribute to a reduction in feelings of anxiety and stress. The detox allows the nervous system to relax, promoting a sense of calm.

3. Improved Sleep Quality:

  • A dopamine detox that involves limiting screen time, especially before bedtime, can positively impact sleep quality. The reduction in exposure to the blue light emitted by screens helps regulate circadian rhythms, leading to better sleep.

4. Enhanced Mood Stability:

  • Excessive stimulation, particularly through digital sources, can contribute to mood swings and irritability. A dopamine detox may lead to a more stable mood as the brain adjusts to a less intense pattern of stimulation.


5. Increased Awareness and Mindfulness:

  • Engaging in a detox encourages individuals to be more mindful of their habits and the impact of stimuli on their well-being. This heightened awareness can lead to more intentional and conscious choices in daily life.

6. Establishment of Healthier Habits:

  • The detox period provides an opportunity to explore alternative activities that are inherently rewarding and contribute positively to well-being. This may include adopting healthier lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise, creative pursuits, or spending quality time with loved ones.

7. Reevaluation of Priorities:

  • Taking a step back from constant stimulation allows individuals to reassess their priorities and values. It may prompt a shift in focus towards activities that align with personal goals and fulfillment.

8. Decreased Dependency on External Validation:

  • Social media and other digital platforms often serve as sources of external validation. A dopamine detox can help individuals reduce their dependence on these external sources for validation, fostering a greater sense of self-worth.

9. Enhanced Real-world Connections:

  • Detoxing from digital stimuli can create more opportunities for face-to-face interactions and meaningful connections. This shift towards in-person relationships contributes to a sense of belonging and social fulfillment.

10. Greater Emotional Resilience:

  • Over time, individuals who engage in dopamine detox may develop greater emotional resilience. They may find themselves less reactive to external stimuli and better equipped to navigate challenges with a more balanced perspective.

It's important to note that the specific outcomes of a dopamine detox can vary from person to person. The key is to approach the process with a mindful and individualized perspective, making gradual adjustments that align with personal goals and well-being.


6. Conclusion


As your life coach, I understand the challenges of navigating the digital age and the impact it can have on our well-being. Phone hangover, linked to dopamine overload, is a common struggle, leading to feelings of fatigue, stress, and anxiety after prolonged smartphone use. To address this, a dopamine detox is a powerful tool, fostering positive changes in various aspects of life. Short-term benefits, such as increased focus and reduced anxiety, can be experienced within a day or two of initiating the detox. Long-term adaptations, including improved sleep quality and mood stability, may require a more extended period of reduced stimulation.


By establishing healthier habits, fostering mindfulness, and reconnecting with the real world, my life coaching clients often report a heightened sense of awareness, emotional resilience, a decreased dependency on external validation as well as an increased sense of calm and happiness.


Life Coaching Support: Consider seeking the guidance of a life coach who can provide personalized strategies to address your specific challenges and goals related to technology use.


References:

  • Lembke, A. (2018). Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence. Dutton.

  • National Institute of Mental Health. (2022). Understanding the Impact of Technology on Mental Health.



 

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Dennis Guyvan, a life coach. He provides individual life coaching sessions in Denver and Chicago, and worldwide via video and phone calls. Schedule your free 30-minute coaching consultation with Dennis Guyvan.












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